Well CES has been and gone once again. Attendance was good this year – while it seemed down on previous years, the enquiries and leads were more qualified. Perhaps the last 12 to 18 months has seen the "cream float to the top".
Speaking with other manufacturers, for many, the last six to eight months have been stellar, us included. So perhaps it's a sign of things to come, it's certainly reassuring to see some buoyancy returning to the market.
We exhibited in room 29-112 at The Venetian, alongside Acoustic Sounds, Thorens and Harbeth. A massive thank you to Chuck and Clark from Acoustic Sounds – firstly, for having us in their room; and second, for playing some outstanding records from the Acoustic Sounds catalogue.
We must also express sincere gratitude to our US distributor Walter Swanbon from Fidelis Distribution. He put up with a lot of grief and must have been close to tearing his hair out when it nearly went "pear-shaped" after a firmware upgrade of the 150i went horribly wrong (you'd think experience would teach us that Murphy and his law always make an appearance at these sorts of events).
Thankfully, after traipsing around what seemed like the entire city of Las Vegas looking for a computer with a serial port, a Vegas local came to our rescue after we posted an SOS on the Atmel AVR Community forum AVR Freaks. Thank you "peret" for getting us back up-and-running and allowing the show to go on.
As well as the éloquence 150i integrated amplifier with onboard 24-bit/192kHz digital-to-analogue converter (DAC), CDt compact disc transport, laptop running iTunes and Harbeth P3ESR mini-monitor loudspeakers.
Of course it's always a long list of compromises to get the sound of the room nailed in a show environment. Given the constraints and resources available, although the sound wasn't perfect, we were happy. The sound improved remarkably as the show progressed; perhaps the gear needed a few more hours on the clock beforehand. Oh well, lesson learnt...
In saying that, I have to admit that it's the best I've heard the 150i – paired with the Harbeth P3ESR speakers. These little speakers complemented the 150i extremely well. Their warm, natural manner presented the 150i's dynamics and detail in a very compelling fashion. More time definitely needs to be spent with these speakers. Check out Audio Video Revolution's recent review of the 150i, where reviewer Andre Marc pairs it with Harbeth Compact 7ES3 loudspeakers.
Some highlights of CES included the Magico Q5 loudspeakers; at US$54,000 a pair, they certainly ain't cheap, but sounded exceptional and it was inspirational seeing a manufacturer breaking speaker construction traditions in such an extravagant way.
Another highlight was the Cantata Music Center from Resolution Audio. Jeff Kalt is one of the world's premier digital audio designers and it's evident in the Cantata. It offers a high-end window to almost every digital source known to man, although unsure if the transport supports blu-ray, we were particularly interested in the ethernet side of things. The Cantata is definitely worth keeping an eye on if you're digitally inclined.
Disappointment of CES probably has to be YG Acoustics. I was quite excited about getting the opportunity to listen to "the best loudspeaker on Earth". To a certain degree one must ask if they're setting themselves up for harsh criticism with their bold claims and advertising campaigns. I have to be honest, to my ears; they certainly didn't live up to their mantra. Did they do as much for me as the Magico Q5s, absolutely not; did they do some things well, of course. So what exactly does make "the best loudspeaker on Earth"?
Oh, and I almost forgot, on the drive back from Vegas to Los Angeles we decided to stop by the Hoover Dam and do the "hard-hat" tour. The sheer scale of the place is staggering, not to mention the massive engineering feat undertaken to construct it in the 1930's. 3,250,000 cubic yards of concrete went into making the Hoover Dam, of which some is said to still be curing, nearly 80 years on!!
That about does it for my little slice of CES 2010, until next year...